Saturday, August 23, 2014

Two recent posts from my Facebook timeline

Breaking News! The PA and Hamas issued the following joint statement this morning, 10 am in Ramallah. 

We state clearly that we recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state and to live in peace in this region. We commit ourselves to peaceful coexistence conditional upon the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank, the removal of checkpoints and the establishment of normal cross-border relationships that encourage trade and cultural exchange. This is further conditional on the satisfactory settlement of the harm caused by the settlement of Israelis in the West Bank and the cessation of all settlement activity. In return we offer the following guarantees of our peaceful intent.[whereupon followed a list of specific proposals for joint monitoring of military and terrorist activities and reporting and redress procedures].

Just kidding

This awful event [the videotaped beheading of an American journalist] prompts me to agonize over something that is in my mind 24/7 these days.

Given the undeniably escalating threat of Islamist terrorism - ISIS, Boco Haram, Hamas, and I am sure many others whose names I do not know, the question arises as to what the best response politically, militarily, economically, is. Libertarianism inclines strongly towards total non-engagement on a state level - though I imagine it would defend the right of private individuals in defending victims who are attacked, murdered, raped, etc. Libertarians and others will also argue, correctly in my view, that in many (most, all?) cases, the gain in power of these barbarians is a direct and/or indirect result of our and our allies' past cumulative military adventures - the horrible unintended consequences of war, even "defensive" war - the most obvious example being the rise of ISIS as a result of the disastrous invasion of Iraq, which has left the country inestimably worse off than under Saddam Hussein.

Be that as it may, how can we know how things would have been in the absence of such intervention. I recall when asking this question before some responses pointing toward situations suggesting that it was only when and after such intervention that the terrorists gained any traction. Not decisive, but suggestive. Still, there remain many who absolutely deny that the power of the Islamists depends on the misdeeds of the west. I confess to being at a loss on this. I just don't know and I don't know know how anyone can know. And related to this, I don't know what "we" ought to do regardless of the the "why" - given where we are now, is it preferable (at the level of the government) to ignore the threats or to somehow react to them. No doubt we have a huge public choice problem - incentive and knowledge problems - the belligerent personalities tend to take things over and mess them up big time. A real dilemma.

About one thing I feel sure. These are barbarians who have taken terror and violence to a new level - their utility functions include pleasure from the suffering of others - they are unmitigated sadists - worse even than the industrialized killers of the Nazi state. They need to be taken at their word and not underestimated.